Being diagnosed with cancer brings fear and anxiety regarding treatment decisions and uncertainty about the future. Unfortunately for many patients, there is the additional concern about the financial burden of cancer treatments.
Individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer are 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without cancer, and insurance alone doesn’t solve the problem.
A 2013 study published in The Oncologist found that 46 percent of insured cancer patients still cut back on food and clothing expenditures and withdrew from their savings to help with out-of-pocket expenses.
Unplanned expenses range from travel and lodging for those who don’t live near a treatment facility to transportation assistance for non-drivers, the elderly or those without access to a vehicle or public transportation. Missed work can also result in reduced income, making it difficult to cover utilities, groceries, rent or mortgage.
Below are 5 tips to help patients with financial concerns so they can focus on what is most important to them:
1. Know your insurance benefits. Ask for an estimate of costs before treatment begins. Most treatment centers can work out payment plans for patients with high out of pocket expenses.
2. If employed, apply for short term and long term disability if you cannot work during treatments. Apply for Social Security disability if you are unable to work for 6 months or more due to your cancer diagnosis. www.ssa.gov
3. Apply for financial assistance and grants from support organizations. The American Cancer Society and Cancer Care Inc. have resource lists and patient service representatives to help find resources in your community.
-American Cancer Society
-American Cancer Society –Support & Resources in Your Area
4. Consider fundraising through local events or social media sites such as Go Fund Me
5. Ask to meet with the oncology social worker at the treatment center. There are many resources that they can help with specific to an individual’s needs.
In addition to the above, local organizations may also be able to help. Ackerman Cancer Center established The First Coast Cancer Foundation to address some of these unplanned expenses and help improve the quality of life for those touched by cancer. Some examples of patient support services provided by The Foundation include financial assistance, educational programs and counseling.
At Ackerman Cancer Center, we understand the financial burdens of cancer and don’t believe quality care should be determined by economic status. In addition to The First Coast Cancer Foundation, there are a number of cancer support groups and resources available in the Jacksonville area. We encourage patients struggling with financial challenges or other needs to meet with one of our oncology social workers for help in reducing the barriers to receiving treatment and needed care.